Ask the Experts
July 11, 2017 - Updated
September 17, 2007 - Originally Posted

BGA Rework - with or without solder paste

During a BGA Remove and Replace process, is it preferable to use a mini stencil and re-deposit solder paste on the site? Or is the fact that the pads are already tinned enough to produce a quality reflow?

D. L.

Expert Panel Responses

There is an advantage to applying a fresh solder paste print, after BGA removal on a PCB. Afterall, this better replicates the original assembly process on the SMT line. With a Lead Free Solder, it is well documented that the wetting properties are quite different compared to a Tin/Lead Solder. Because of this "non-wet" issue, the flux within the newly applied solder will certainly help the new BGA solder to all pads more efficiently. One could argue that simply applying flux would be enough. And I would agree, it is possible to only use flux, but with a large area BGA and an unconfirmed volume of solder left on the PCB, there is better chance of success with solder printed on the PCB. If using Tin/Lead, the same problem of the ball wetting to the pad stays consistent. But Tin/Lead solder is a bit more forgiving, both from an alignment and wetting prospective. Finetech has worked with a number of customers, particularly in the automotive industry, where they have chosen not to apply new solder to a rework process. In some cases, reworking in nitrogen will also improve this process. Customers will rely only on the existing solder left on the PCB with a fresh deposit of flux. Thousands and thousands of boards have been reworked with this method with no integrity issues that I am aware of. It is important to conduct a design of experiments with both scenarios. Depending on the type of product, the volume (or lack thereof) could cause problems with humidity or hot/cold temp cycle testing. Customers that Finetech has worked with have conducted these same experiments and have proven that the solder joint integrity is maintained. A common challenge with a densely populated assembly is actually getting the solder onto the pads. There are various mini-stencil solutions on the market, and Finetech has created a hands-free, machine based Direct Component Printing module. Originally designed for QFN/MLF rework, with careful stencil design, customers are using this module to print solder paste onto the BGA balls of the new component. The rework system picks up the component, aligns, and places the BGA.

Neil O'Brien
Sales Director
Neil O'Brien has worked in the field of electronic manufacturing equipment for over fifteen years and is currently Sales Director for Finetech, a manufacturer of precision rework systems and die bonders.

In most cases BGA rework can be achieved, and is often more reliable, without addition of solder paste (i.e., using only the solder balls). This assumes a good site prep and proper flux process. In cases where there may be planarity issues, solder paste can be beneficial. This is often seen with metal lid BGA and BGA connectors/sockets. When adding solder past to a BGA device, we have found it much easier and more relaible to add the past to the component rather than the board. Most rework system suppliers offer fixtures to perform this process.

Don Naugler
General Manager
VJ Technologies, Inc.
Don is the General Manager of VJ Technologies, Inc., a leading manufacturer of X-ray Inspection and Rework equipment for the electronics manufacturing industry. He has more than 20 years experience in development, manufacturing, and support of a wide range of capital equipment.

My input is for Tin Lead applications flux should work OK for tinned pads, but for Lead Free you want to put paste on the PCB pad or paste on the BGA ball. I have seen recent interest in placing paste on the BGA ball itself, which eliminates the problem of tightly packed components next to the BGA package when using a mini stencil for pad paste printing.

Bill Coleman
Vice President Technology
Photo Stencil
For over 18 years, Dr. Coleman has been the vice president of technology for Photo Stencil, working closely with customers to understand their printing requirements. His efforts have resulted in several new stencil products.

In my opinion, it must be best to try and replicate the original SMT process during rework. Therefore, one would tend to head towards using paste during rework, although many people do not. However, with lead-free applications, where producing a good soldered joint is more difficult, adding solder paste will help. The main functions of solder paste - during BGA rework - are to provide the flux necessary for reflow, to assist with creating good wetted joints and also to take out any complanarity issues. Unfortunately, it is difficult to apply paste to the pcb due to lack of space around the BGA site. Therefore, many people now use a stencil based system to apply paste to the balls of the BGA (CPF - component print frame). The problem with CPF is there may now be a 'lack of paste issue' (it is difficult to get sufficient paste onto the balls of a BGA)...which means there will be a lack of flux this is then countered by applying a small amount of liquid flux to the pcb in addition to the paste on the BGA.

Roger Gibbs
Managing Director
Twenty years ago Mr. Gibbs, Managing Director of PDR, produced the first rework system based on Focused Infra-Red light energy. PDR now has a 3,500-strong global installation list with top OEMs and EMS providers.

Although you may be able to re-attach a new BGA and have it pass electrical tests, you may be causing reliability issues later for two reaons.
  1. When you remove the old BGA, some of the solder is also removed with it. When you put a new BGA on, there may not be sufficient solder to make a reliable connection.
  2. The tin that is on the pad does not have flux. Without sufficient flux, you can get oxidation and may have an unreliable solder joint.
I would recommend reapplying solder. If the mini-stencil is not practical on a populated board, you may consider dispensing for reapplying the solder. Depending on the process, you may end up with excess solder and bridging. The amount is likely to vary from pad to pad. If you run into this, you may want to consider removing excess solder before re-applying the correct amount.

Alan Lewis
Director of Application Engineering
Mr. Lewis worked for The Aerospace Corporation for 6 years before joining Asymtek in 1993. He holds multiple patents in dispensing technology for electronics assembly and packaging. He has a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Missouri-Rolla.
NOTE: Mr. Lewis is no longer working at Asymtek.

The best process is to remove the component, remove the old solder from the board using desoldering braid and a variable power, fixed temperature soldering system fitted with a blade tip. This will ensure the site is flat. Then clean the old flux from the PCB with an approved solvent. Now if you are using solder paste, you need to apply the solder paste directly to the solder balls on the component using a solder paste plate. If you prefer paste flux, you need to apply the flux with a flux dip plate to ensure a uniform and repeatable application. Place the component and reflow the part with a convection rework machine. These steps will ensure a high quality and reliable reworked PCB.

Edward Zamborsky
Regional Sales Manager
OK International Inc.
Ed Zamborsky is a Regional Sales & Technical Support Manager for Thermaltronics, located in New York. His position requires frequent customer visits throughout North America and the Caribbean and his position encompasses not only sales but the role of trainer and master applications engineer for all of Thermaltronics products. His expertise includes such specialties as hand soldering, convection and conduction reflow techniques, array rework, fluid dispensing equipment, and fume extraction. Ed has authored many articles and has presented many papers on topics such as; Low Volume SMT Assembly, Solder Fume Extraction, SMT Rework, BGA Rework, Lead-Free Hand Soldering, High Thermal Demand Hand Soldering, Lead Free Visual Inspection and Lead Free Array Rework.

Reader Comment
I have to say for any BGA application the simplest way is to use dip paste designed for POP technology. It works like a dream and I just don't know why all of the suppliers do not push the product as a rework product. Even with its higher price it makes life so much easier.
Bob Willis,, UK

As several others have pointed out above, utilizing a rework process that most closely replicates the original manufacturing process is always preferred. While stenciling paste on the prepared BGA site may seem simple, it is without question an operation that requires a high level of operator skill to successfully master. Often times on highly complex boards, the BGA site may surrounded closely by numerous components, making it challenging to fit and secure a mini metal stencil flat to the PCB.

Even once the stencil is secured, operator technique is required to hand squeegee a clean print of paste through the stencil and onto the pads without any unwanted smearing that could cause bridges. Flexible, adhesive backed BGA rework stencils are available that help to reduce these challenges.

Bob LePage
Sales Engineer
Circuit Technology Center
Mr. LePage has been a key member of the team at Circuit Technology Center since 1996. He has vast expertise, experience and understanding of complex circuit board rework, repair and modification operations. He is one of the most knowledgeable experts in this area across the globe.
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